Ah the holy grail of work-life balance. Look at those perfect families with 2 working parents, happily married, going on vacations, kids all well-behaved. How do they do it when the rest of us seem to feel like a mess?
I'd like to propose that we shift the language a bit here. Can we call it "life choices" instead of work-life balance? Yes, I'm aware that "life choices" has another meaning. I'm open to a better term but for now I'm using "life choices".
First, I'm removing the word "work" because work is part of your life, it's not two separate things. You spend roughly half of your waking hours at work, so let's just call that part of your life.
Second, I'm changing the word "balance" to "choices". Balance implies that you will have perfect harmony between family and work, and sure in the macro that might be true, but in the micro day-to-day life, it's just not going to be true. Focus on making choices for the life you want each day.
I just watched an old home movie from an event at my kids preschool. I cried when I saw that I wasn't there for the event, our awesome nanny was there taking the movie. But you know what, at the time with 3 kids in preschool it seemed they had an event every week smack in the middle of the day, and I worked an hour away! I attended many events at preschool, but it just wasn't possible to be at every single one. I made a choice. My daughter (now 12) says she has no recollection of me missing this event. I chose not to be stressed out trying to run from meetings to preschool and back to work that day. I chose to be fully focused at work, and I chose to be a great mom when I got home.
I had 3 kids in a 4 year period and never stopped working. I love my kids, but I would not have been happy being a stay at home mom, so I made a choice.
People ask me the secret to 'having it all'. Here's what worked for me.
Don't be robbed by Obligation and Guilt There are a lot of people with expectations out there. The class mom wants volunteers. Your mom wants the kids to visit. Your son's little league needs a coach. Make your own choice on what you want to commit to. Sometimes other people make us feel guilty but very often we do it to ourselves. Say no, and own it! It's your life. Make the best choice you can and don't look back.
Get Help. Shonda Rhimes, writer and producer of 4 hit TV shows and mother of 3, when asked 'how she does it' she says "I have help". Seriously, get help. There's no glory in mopping the floor when you could be playing with your kids. Or running out of a meeting to rush to daycare pickup so you can be stressed when you pick up your kids. Can someone cook you dinner? Actually, please, can someone out there start a business where you cook dinner for working parents? Get someone else to pick the kids up and make dinner so you can arrive home happy and calm like the god-Daddy or goddess-Mommy that you are.
Be present when you are home. I'm not the first one to say this, but it's true so I don't want to leave it out. On the occasions that I have had to work in the evening, I noticed myself being very short with my family. The only good solution here is to not work in the evening. Give your family your full attention.
Social media is Shiny. Remember, we only put the good stuff on facebook. I was reading a friend's perfect family posts one day. Their kids are perfect, the parents dress up and go out, they travel all over, gag! Then I looked at my own post history. As it turns out, according to my posts, I'm perfect too! We only post the good stuff. Don't use everyone else's wonderful, shiny facebook posts as your measuring stick.
These are things that worked for me. What worked for you?